Monday, September 17, 2007

Make Cardio Fun

Some people like cardio. Some people eat bugs and enjoy it.

Maybe you can guess I'm not among those who like cardio for cardio's sake. I like being able to jog a little farther than before (not regularly, because of my knees), but not enough that I would do it for fun. So I have to trick myself.

1. Read a book
This is most easily done if you are using a recumbent exercise bike, the kind that you sit in like a chair. Unless, that is, you get an audiobook. Your library probably has an online component that will let you check out audiobooks as mp3s. Get a plot-driven would-be-page-turner-if-it-had-pages, and time will fly by.

2. Take up a community center sport
Volleyball, basketball, or curlingwill push you to new calorie burning heights (well, I'm not sure about curling), and you will barely notice . I kickbox, one of the most intense workouts you can get, and I don't notice that I'm dead tired until class is over and I can't raise my gloves.

3. Take up a martial art
The great thing about a martial art is that they happen regularly, week in and week out, all year long. You can choose one with the level of aggression and physical intensity that suites you. If you're like me, sparring is what drives you, but maybe you don't want physical contact and something slower paced, like Aikido. Tae Kwon Do will increase your flexibility and explosiveness, and you can choose to point spar or not..

4. Sport specific training
Maybe it's because you already like the mechanics, or maybe it's because you have a goal other than calorie burning or heart health that brings more satisfaction, but training for a sport can make cardio more endurable. I like punching and kicking, so a heavy bag workout is not only intense, but enjoyable.

5. Get outside
Enjoy the weather while it's nice. Exercising in an active environment will keep your brain off of the fact that you desperately want to stop running.

6. Switch it up
Okay, but you're stuck inside during the bitter winter. What can you do to make the elliptical machine, the treadmill, the stair stepper, and the exercise bike more fun? Instead of counting down 30 minutes on one, spend 7 on each. Or switch session by session. It will alleviate some of the tedium.

7. Get an exercise partner
In a perfect world, right? No one you know seems to exercise, or they live to far away, or they go to a different gym. Well, maybe you can't find someone to go to the gym with you, but you can find someone who'll go on regular walks with you, like a family member. Your dog would be happy to, and although he's not a great conversationalist, he'll be enthusiastic. Having someone to work out with makes any exercise session better, cardio, weights, or sport.

8. Watch TV
I can't believe I'm advising you to watch the idiot box. My wife and I don't have cable anymore. Since mixed martial arts has caught on, there's fighting on some channel almost every night of the week. I found myself watching way more TV than I liked. So now, when we are good and use our aerobic steps together (no choreography, just step up, step down), we watch an episode of a television series on DVD. Right now we're watching the first season of 24, which neither of us saw the first time around. You'll find that hour long dramas that once had commercials are a perfect cardio length. 30-35 minutes of cardio followed up by 10-15 minutes of stretching. Since we don't have cable, it seems like a treat. And time disappears when you're really into a plot.

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